It can't be done quickly. It's best when done with intention. When hiking in a forest of pines, wading in the shallows of the ocean or walking by potted spring flowers in a display, stop, close your eyes and inhale. The results are marvelous and sensory. When you exhale, it will probably be accompanied by a sigh.
As adults or children, we understand what this deliberate action may produce; infants need to learn. All you have to do is watch a toddler smell a hyacinth for the first time to know this to be true; their facial expression and body language will tell the tale. On April 1, 2014 Breathe (A Paula Wiseman Book, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers) written and illustrated by Scott Magoon was released into the wild. Let's go to the arctic and see what we can see.
Breathe, little whale!
Riding on top of his mother, a whale is reminded to take air in and let it out. His parent does not stop there. Play as long as you can, as often as you can.
Practice what you do best; swim, again and again. Most of all, the baby whale needs to breathe. Diving, exploring, and making new friends have their place in his daily activities.
Pausing to listen, then joining in the chorus of sounds is warmly recommended. Even if danger lurks nearby, do not be afraid. There are other answers. This giant of the ocean knows affection is to be given and received, dreams are supported, sleep follows the end of each day and most of all, it ends as it begins...
For a baby whale, navigating through his frozen world may seem simple (to us) but it's important. Scott Magoon's spare text, one to seven words per illustration, is a reflection of these essential activities. No word or words are wasted. While the narrative is a mother whale speaking to her baby, the meaning will be easily understood by the youngest of human listeners and readers; a sense of security and peace is prevalent.
My first step is always to open the dust jacket, looking at the extent of the illustration. Scott Magoon has chosen to extend this one flap edge to flap edge, including ice floes, a vast cool blue sky, flying puffins and a variety of fish schools swimming along with the white whale. Beneath this the book case is an exact replica. A pattern of the mother whale with her baby breathing covers the opening and closing endpapers.
A bird's eye view of the chilly region, water winding between ice with seven whales swimming just below the surface (one breathing) is so lovely you might have to remind yourself to breathe. Magoon uses this to showcase the title page and verso. Throughout this volume all the digitally rendered illustrations are spread across two pages.
Color palette and shading mirror the location above and below the ocean; a richness and texture is found in all of them. Bubbles, swirls and easy, flowing lines enhance the movement of the whale and the fascination the water world brings to readers. Creatures shown in the illustrations are native to the region; their eyes, like those of the whales, add to the lightheartedness of the pictures.
One of several favorite illustrations is for the words...
Listen to the sea.
It is a vast undersea scene with the baby whale in the upper left-hand corner singing, sounds circling out and around him. The shifting colors, hues of blue and purple, provide the background for another whale, a squid, other fish, a shark, two turtles and a narwhal. Light from a sunny sky filters down through the water.
No matter your age, even on the most hectic of days, the reading of Breathe written and illustrated by Scott Magoon is guaranteed to fill you with serenity. It is perfectly perfect for a group read aloud with younger students or to share as a one-on-one with someone special. Use it to introduce a specific unit or just because the words, pictures, design and layout work seamlessly together.
Please be sure to access Scott Magoon's official website by following the link embedded in his name. For more illustrations follow this link to the publisher's website. UPDATE (April 29, 2014) Please visit Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast hosted by Julie Danielson where Scott Magoon talks about his process for creating the artwork for this title.